Today, November 13, 2019, as witnesses take the stand in the first public hearings on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, the Harper’s Podcast looks back to another major report on presidential infraction. The Department of Justice released its redacted version of the Mueller Report almost seven months ago, on April 18. Although the 448-page document revealed new depths to the chaos of the Trump presidency, its inconclusiveness was a disappointment and a setback to those who had hoped to see clear grounds for impeachment.
On May 30, Harper’s Magazine organized a discussion about the report’s implications between four experts—Karen J. Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School; Elizabeth Holtzman, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives who recommended three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon; James Oakes, an American historian specializing in slavery, antislavery, and the Civil War; and Brenda Wineapple, author of a recent book on the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson. In a conversation that takes on new relevance during the current prosecution, the panelists discussed common misunderstandings of the impeachment process (at least one of which was shared by Donald Trump), the narrowness of the argument that impeachment proceedings might perversely “help” the president, and the provision’s larger historical importance as a means of reasserting the limits of presidential power. The panel took place at the New York Society for Ethical Culture and was moderated by Harper’s president and publisher John R. MacArthur.